Warning, this article contains spoilers for previous Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. episodes and minor spoilers for Thor 2: The Dark World.
Though the series starts out post-Iron Man 3, this week’s episode is the first time we’ve seen Coulson and his crew directly interact with the aftermath of a MCU movie release. At least, that was what was advertised. The episode careens off from the plot of Thor 2 less than three minutes in. If you haven’t seen the most recent movie, probably the only question you’ll have during the first scene is “Why are they in Greenwich?” Coulson otherwise sums up things the viewers should know as far as Norse Gods = Aliens with Magitech, and the show rolls on from there.
Meanwhile in Norway, a couple of hikers who have never heard of “leave only footprints” chainsaw down a tree and extract the broken metal rod inside. When the park rangers come to bust them, Blondie grabs the rod, glows maniacally, and shoves one of the rangers three times her size into a tree. Queue Team Coulson appearing on site to examine the evidence. There’s a cute big-brothering moment between Ward and Simmons as he coaches her into facing her fear of heights (the one she understandably developed after jumping parachute-less out of an airplane) by getting her to talk science to him. Simmons pulls a 3D scan of what was in the tree to send to Fitz back on the Bus, who confirms that the rod was alien and, in particular, Asgardian.
Blondie and her boyfriend don’t plan to lie low with their stolen artifact, though. Skye and May immediately find news footage of them leading a riot, flaunting their super-strength, and declaring themselves gods fit to fight the ones that keep invading Earth. Coulson decides to bring their 3D copy of the staff to an expert in Norse Mythology who they’ve consulted previously, so the team flies off to Seville, Spain.
Prof. Randolf tells them that the rod found in the tree is one third of an Asgardian item known as a Berserker Staff, which was handed out to members of the Asgardian army so they could beat on their enemies more productively. It causes uncontrollable rage in the user. One of these Berserker warriors fell in love with Earth and chose to live as a human instead of returning to Asgard. He broke the staff in three pieces, hid one in the tree, one near some bones, and one “close to god,” and defected. Coulson and Co. start off to find the buried second piece and find out there’s a promising dig right there in Seville.
While searching the tunnels, Skye and Ward come across Prof. Randolf sneaking around trying to escape with another staff piece. In the struggle, Ward grabs the Berserker Staff and gets all glowy, flashing back to a young boy drowning in a well, screaming his name. Randolf takes off with the rod but runs into Blondie and her crew, who steal the second piece of the staff to go with their first. Randolf is taken into custody and Ward gets to go through some fun sciencey tests where it turns out his adrenal glad is going nuts, making him pissed off and super strong like the others. May lets Ward know she’s not impressed by his childhood manpain and that violence won’t make the hate leave; she would know. He doesn’t agree. After name dropping Thor and explaining how tight he is with the Avengers doesn’t intimidate Randolf into spilling what he knows, Coulson lets Ward take out his new aggression– which turns out totally fine since apparently it wasn’t torture, just a trick to get Randolf to admit he’s the Berserker from the myth. OKAY.
Confirmed alien Randolf explains the staff effectively pulls up the most hateful memory of the one who touches it. That’s why Ward can’t shake the memory of his brother drowning. He reveals the location of the last piece and the race is on. Of course, the bad guys get there first, and stab Randolf for his trouble. As FitzSimmons and Coulson play heart surgeon with the Asgardian, Ward fights the riot leader. May and Skye try to talk him down from his rage before he permanently Hulks out (yes, Dr. Banner is directly referenced in comparison) but are interrupted by more baddies. Ward uses his super-strength to take down wave after wave, but it’s obvious he’s losing it. Finally, May takes the staff pieces from Ward.
They go down. There is no contest.
Staff reclaimed, Team Coulson does what they do best: clean up the aftermath. Skye approaches Ward and offers her very attractive shoulder to cry on but Ward is still a little uptight and a little shaken up by reliving his traumatic childhood memories to vent, and declines. Until May leaves her door open. Let the first meeting of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s PTSD drinking club commence.
So what did you think? Is Ward’s manpain curable? Will Melinda May make an excellent War Goddess? And how creepy was that Tahiti stinger?